CARLSBAD — Just two months after Caltrans’ proposed I-5 expansion project open house in Carlsbad, a number of residents gathered on Oct. 20 for a town hall meeting in opposition of the project.
Grassroots organization Citizens Against Freeway Expansion, or CAFÉ, and the Sierra Club hosted the public meeting at Carlsbad Community Church, 3195 Harding Street. Del Mar City Councilwoman Crystal Crawford moderated the event.
The two groups hosted the meeting, the fifth in a series along the coast, to highlight what they said are flaws and discrepancies in the 11,000-page Environmental Impact Report, or EIR, that could affect I-5’s coastal corridor.
“It’s important to get people educated so they feel involved,” Sierra Club attorney Pam Epstein said. “This report isn’t just for lawyers; these meetings take away the enormity of the project and we want people to feel empowered.”
Five presenters tackled different aspects of the project — ranging from visual impacts to emission projections, traffic congestion to environmental justice issues. Audience members were vocal with their dissatisfaction about the proposal throughout the presentation.
“If you’re not happy with the images in the EIR, you’re most likely not going to be happy with the reality of it,” Solana Beach resident Bob Cotton said, pointing to the current state of I-15, which he noted varies greatly from its original proposal.
Current City Councilmen and mayoral candidates Keith Blackburn and Matt Hall attended the meeting to update the audience on Carlsbad’s review of the project.
While both said they needed to do more research as candidates and as a council body, Blackburn noted that city staff is in the process of reviewing the proposal and how it will affect Carlsbad.
“As a city council, look at where we’re going, not where we’ve been,” Carlsbad resident Kathy Combs said during the question and answer portion of the event, urging the council to support research on public transportation alternatives. “We really need to take a much closer look at the future.”
Event organizers encouraged attendees to voice their comments on the project in writing to Caltrans, which is required to respond to each written question.
The deadline for public comment on the project has been extended to Nov. 22 and can be submitted through e-mail at I-5_NCC_EIR_EIS@dot.ca.gov.
“When we do town halls like this, it takes away the mystery of it all,” Epstein said. “We tell them, ‘this project belongs to you, and it affects your backyard — say something.’”